Three Writing Games to Spark your Creativity

I hope that you have started off the new year well. I continue to accumulate ideas through the Storystorm challenge. As of today, I am up to 28. Hey, not bad! Certainly not all of them will turn into stories, but the more I have, the more chance I have of at least one being a winner.

Are you writing? I am trying to write when I can, and when I am not working on a story, I have been trying out several creative writing games that I was fortunate enough to receive as Christmas gifts.

game 1

It also includes a timer.

1. The Writer’s Toolbox
There are three different sets of devices in the toolbox:
a) Four palettes to spin to come up with a protagonist, goal, obstacle, and action.
b) Sixth sense cards: those are cards with a description using one of the senses or a memory that you are supposed to use to write a sensory landscape. It is one of my weaknesses, so I am trying to do this more often. Yesterday I started with “last year in Berlin”. Not that I was in Berlin last year, but I was there in 1994, so I managed to incorporate those memories into the story. After three minutes I drew the card “mouldy oranges”. Yikes! That took a rather compelling turn…
c) Sticks that allow you to start with a first sentence and then after a few minutes require you to add an unusual twist. There are also sticks that prod you to write about conflict, often a weakness in writers. I know it is one of mine.

game 2

2. Storymatic
This is a deck of cards that promises “six trillion stories in one little box” .
There are several ways you can use the cards, but the one way I like the best so far is choosing two gold cards to create a main character and then choosing two copper cards to lead you into the character’s story. For example, yesterday’s character was an animal psychic who carried a grudge. I had to incorporate a roller coaster and the main character leaving town in the story. Interesting…
It also has a junior edition I would like to try with the younger set.

game 3

3. Writer Emergency Pack
This is a deck of cards with two types of cards in it: an idea card and a detail card.
There are several ways you can use the cards. For example, you can pick out a matching set if you are stuck in a story to see where it takes you. I did that with my animal psychic story to see where it would lead me.
I also chose to do the writing exercise of using a well known story or fairy tale and then applying the cards to the story to see where my story could go. I chose “lose the cavalry”, that is, what happens if the “cavalry” doesn’t come to rescue the main characters, but instead they have to rescue themselves? I decided to write a piece of “Star Wars” fan fiction: what if Leia Organa rescued herself, this being a sore point with many people including myself. Why wasn’t she trained to use the Force? That would have been a whole different story!

I highly recommend all of these games. They allow you to work on different skills and provide some unexpected but also fascinating twists to your stories.

Have you ever tried any of these games? Do you have any creativity games you would like to recommend? I have written about this topic before here and here and here, if you would like more suggestions.

Leave me a comment below about your thoughts on creative writing games.

Five 2017 Picture Book Biographies About Inspirational Women

The year 2017 was a great year for picture book biographies about inspirational women. Their stories are inspirational, because despite the odds being against these women they still succeeded.

Here are five that my ten-year-old daughter and I enjoyed:

“Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code”, Written by Laurie Hallmark and Illustrated by Katy Wu
Grace Hopper broke many barriers and accomplished many firsts in the world of computer science. For example, she was assigned to work on one of the first computers, the Mark 1. Very few people had ever programmed before, so she had to teach herself how to do it. Grace Hopper was also the first to create a program that used English words instead of computer language.
In the book, you will find out where the name computer “bug” came from.
Bonus: Grace Hopper’s inspirational quotes are peppered throughout the book.
To see a Google Doodle honouring her, watch the following video.

“Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved The First Lunar Landing”, By Dean Robbins and Illustrated by Lucy Knisley
Margaret Hamilton’s curiosity led her into the world of computers and a job with NASA, eventually leading her into the role of director of software programming at a time when there were limited opportunities for women. She thought of everything that could go wrong with a spacecraft and so the scenarios were written into the code of Apollo 8-Apollo 11’s journeys. When Apollo 11 was trying to land on the moon, the computer started to overload as it was trying to do too many tasks, but it was Margaret Hamilton’s code that allowed it to focus on the landing.
You may have seen the picture of Margaret Hamilton standing next to the code that she used for the Apollo 11 moon landing. It is as tall as she is. If you haven’t seen it, it’s in the following video.

“Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire”, by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville and Illustrated by Bridgette Barrager
Mary Blair was one of the first women to land a job at Walt Disney Studios. However, her sense of colour just didn’t fit into their world of black and white. Though she did manage to get teal, aquamarine, and lime green into some of the Disney movies, eventually she left to pursue more freedom in her art, until one day Walt Disney asked her to design the “It’s a Small World” ride. Mary Blair agreed with one condition: she would be the one in charge. The ride is still one of the most beloved today.
You can check out some of Mary Blair’s creations in the following video.

“Party Gowns: The Story of Fashion Designer Ann Cole Lowe”, by Deborah Blumenthal and illustrated by Laura Freeman
Ann Cole Lowe is most famous for designing the wedding dress of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. However, Ann Cole Lowe was an African American, and that made her designing journey particularly difficult. For example, when she went to drop off the wedding and bridesmaid dresses, she was told that she would need to use the black entrance meant for workers. She refused, saying that if she had to do that the bridal party would not be wearing her dresses, winning the right to go through the front door.

“The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin”, Written by Julia Finley Mosca and Illustrated by Daniel Rieley
My daughter told me that she studied Dr. Temple Grandin in her veterinary courses, because she is famous for inventing ways to make transportation more comfortable for livestock. Dr. Grandin is also famous for speaking about autism. She says that autism makes her “different, not less”.
The book chronicles her journey from childhood until present through all her ups and downs. The message is that everybody’s brains are unique and that the world needs everybody’s ideas.
Bonus: The book is written in entirely in rhyme.
Watch the trailer for the book in the following video.

There were lots more picture book biographies about inspirational women published in 2017, such as “Lighter than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot” by Matthew Clark Smith and illustrated by Matt Tavares and “Long-Armed Ludy and the First Women’s Olympics” by Jean L.S. Patrick and illustrated by Adam Gustavson. The trend is continuing. I am excited to see that there is a new picture book called “Hidden Figures” coming out in 2018. The book is about the four black women who helped NASA get men into space despite their limitations of the time. I recently watched the movie of the same name, and it is fabulous!

Ask your local librarian for some recommendations. Leave a comment below for me letting me know which related books you have enjoyed.
By the way, have you signed up for Storystorm 2018? It’s not too late. Registration is open until January 9.